By Tina Morrison
Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand's largest meat processor, paid former chief executive Keith Cooper more than $1.8 million last financial year, reflecting his long service with the company.
Cooper, who joined the cooperative in 1989 and was chief executive for eight years, was paid between $1.84 million and $1.85m in the company's 2015 financial year ended Sept. 30, Silver Fern Farms said in its annual report, where it is required to detail the number of employees that it paid $100,000 or more.
"The payments made to him reflect a combination of base salary for a period, a short-term incentive related to the prior year, a retention incentive that related to prior and future years, annual and long-service leave as well as a payment that reflected his significant contribution to the company over the prior 18 years, the most recent eight as chief executive," the Dunedin-based company said.
The meat processor posted a 2015 profit of $24.9m, up from $474,000 the year earlier as it reduced debt and inventory, sold non-core assets, and wound down its investment in a dairy bull beef scheme.
It expects a planned tie up with China's Shanghai Maling Aquarius will allow it to pay off its remaining debt and provide it with funds to upgrade plants and pursue its strategy of selling more higher value branded products.
The Shanghai Maling venture was supported by shareholders and is awaiting regulatory approvals.
Cooper has said it was timely to step down as the company returned to profitability, allowing a new person to take it through its next phase of development. He was replaced by the company's chief strategy officer Dean Hamilton, a former investment banker.
Silver Fern paid 176 employees and former employees $100,000 or more during the 2015 financial year, according to its report.